All dog owners know that their dogs feel emotions. There’s joy when you open a bag of its favorite treats; fear when the vacuum cleaner turns on; maybe even some aggression when another dog comes sniffing around. No matter what your dog is feeling, do dogs cry in response?
Well, yes and no.
Let’s break down the basics of what it means if a dog is crying.
It’s essential to recognize what constitutes a regular emotional expression from your pooch versus what behaviors or details might be a cause for concern.
Dogs are mammals, so they have tear ducts. This evolutionary feature helps keep mammalian eyes clean and lubricated.
However, for the most part, only humans seem to produce tears in response to a strong emotion.
So, while your pup experiences tears, this isn’t typically an emotional response but a biological one.
You may want to consult with your vet if your dog has excessive tear production. That could indicate an eye infection or a problem with your dog’s tear ducts.
There are several possible reasons for the extra lubrication: allergies, a tear duct blockage, a foreign object in the eye, a scratched cornea, or even an infection.
Because of how canine eyes are structured, their tear ducts funnel liquid to the nose and throat, so too much liquid secreting externally from the eye may indicate a more severe problem.
A recent study suggests that there might be some evidence that dogs can express some emotion through tears.
Researchers measured how much liquid volume a dog’s eyes produced when reunited with their owner — results demonstrate that tear volume increased during this scenario.
There’s also evidence to suggest that dog tears may be linked to oxytocin, the same chemical humans’ release when we cry.
Side note: as heart-melting as this study’s conclusion is, you should still check with your vet if your pup’s eyes are especially leaky.
When humans cry, we emote with more than just our eyes.
Dogs often “cry” with vocalizations, such as whines, whimpers, or barks. Puppies learn these vocal queues early on to get attention from their mom (whether canine or human).
It’s also no surprise if you’ve recently started crate training and your puppy cries in the crate.
Dogs continue to use these vocal tools to express a need (such as food or a bathroom break) or an emotion (such as fear, dominance, or anxiety).
Dogs often whimper or whine at night, which frustrates sleepy owners. When the family is asleep, your pooch might feel lonely or bored.
By vocalizing these emotions or crying, your dog hopes to wake you up to play or cuddle. In this scenario, the best way to curb this behavior is to ignore it.
Remember, dogs often cry for attention. To stop your dog’s disruptive crying, make sure it feels safe and cozy, and try not to over-respond (as hard as this may be to do).
If your dog is making sounds of distress and you don’t know the cause, you need to investigate.
Dogs may use vocal queues if they are in pain or discomfort; if you’re unsure of the cause and none of your regular interventions seem to work, a call to the vet may be in order.
A dog might shake, hide, or even ignore you when it feels sad. We all know that each pooch is unique, and you’ll soon learn how your pet expresses feelings.
Should you call the vet when dogs cry?
So, can dogs cry? Absolutely.
They are emotionally intelligent mammals; dogs feel sad, anxious, and fearful, just like us, though they tend to express themselves differently.
There are some key warning signs to consider in addition to tears or vocal queues.
Cloudy eyes, vomiting, lethargy, or changes in appetite are all red flags for your pup’s health; if your dog is crying or shedding tears in addition to other symptoms or behavior changes, it’s time to visit the vet. Tears can warn of eye infections or other problems.
If your pooch is just a little dewy-eyed when you come back from a trip, or it may whimper during a thunderstorm, these are normal behaviors and not a cause for concern.
Chances are that your pal only needs an extra dose of snuggling.